If you're still waiting for that payment and struggling with the thought of getting "legal," don't fret. There are many, many contractors in your exact shoes every day. Take the payment problem one day at a time, and one step at a time. And if you find yourself reading this blog post, you're next step is likely filing a mechanics lien.
There's a bunch of content out there to help contractors in California understand how to file a mechanics lien. Here, I'll give you some high-level practical advice on how to think about your decision, and how to get your California mechanics lien filed.
Should You File A California Mechanics Lien?
This is an area where a lot of contractors struggle. The fact, however is that if you're waiting for payment long enough to think strongly about filing a mechanics lien, then you probably should file a lien.
You may be concerned about a customer relationship, and that's a valid concern. You can give some benefit of the doubt to the other parties to preserve your relationships, but it's not fair or advisable to wait too long. You should be paid before your lien deadline expires (in California, you have 90 days to file the lien). Calculate your lien deadline using this neat free online lien deadline calculator tool, and if you're close, then the choice is easy: file.
What Are The Major Mistakes To Avoid?
Filing a California lien is actually not that complicated. Most people make the same general mistakes, which are:
Not Licensed? This is a clear on, but make sure you're licensed to do the work you did.
Send preliminary notice? If you're not the general contractor, you likely needed to send a preliminary notice at the very start of the project. This is a clear California rule. Did you send your notice?
Serve The Property Owner: When you file your lien, you need to include an affidavit saying you served the property owner with a copy of the lien. Make sure you serve the owner, and you provide the recording office with your affidavit.
So, How Do I Actually Get The California Lien Filed?
This is a great little video that goes through each step of filing a mechanics lien in California:
While it's possible to download a free lien form, fill it out, serve the owner, get it recorded, and do it all on your own....boy, it's really not worth it.
You can file a California lien in minutes with zlien.
Some other articles I've written to help you understand how to file a California mechanics lien: